What fear really is…

April 14, 2011

I’ve developed a new relationship to fear.


To understand it, I first had to realize that I am neither my thoughts nor my emotions… If you don’t believe this, just think about when you were 8 years old. Think about your thoughts and emotions back then.  Did they stay the same up until now? No.  That means our identity goes much deeper. I believe our identity is simply our ability to observe, and our ability to take action.  Those are the only two things that have always been present (at an ontological level).


So to truly understand a thought or emotion, we need to separate ourselves from it, and simply observe it, find it interesting, and get curious.  Because why take it seriously if it’s only on its way out?


The second thing I had to understand was that every time I had a fear and faced it, there was some sort of growth that came as a result.  Some might consider this obvious, but the next part was not so obvious…


I’ve found that fear is excitement about something we have judged as harmful to us.


Just think about that for a moment: “Fear is excitement about something we have judged as harmful to us.”


Afraid to quit your job and start a business? It’s because your mind took something that’s very exciting to you, and told you all the reasons you might starve and die and if you do this. Afraid to ask out that girl?  You’re excited at the notion, but your mind has convinced you that the rejection could be completely devastating.


Let me give you the most base example.  My mother does not have a fear about skydiving. But the reason is not courage. The reason is she’s never been skydiving and never wants  to go skydiving. It’s not even on her radar.  Thus she spends absolutely no time being afraid of it.  But people who think about it and get really scared are those would love to do it, but they’re worried they’ll die (or they’re just afraid of fear itself).


Now that I know what fear is, I start to get excited when I feel it, because I know there’s gold there. And as they say, courage is not the lack of fear. It’s feeling the fear and doing it anyway.


It’s my hope that you’ll think of this post the next time you’re afraid, separate your identity from the emotion, and smirk because you know what’s up.  🙂